After nearly 19 years of legal wrangling and funding battles, Broward County’s Addiction And Recovery Center, BARC, has moved to its new building in Fort Lauderdale.
The more than $22 million, state-of-the-art facility officially opened Wednesday, though services won’t be available to patients until the end of the month or early July.
Rocky Rodriguez has served on the Broward County Substance Abuse Advisory Board for the last 34 years. He regrets how long the project took to complete.
“Substance abuse is in everyone’s backyard," Rodriguez said. "This building will serve in excess of 4,500 clients per year, which amounts to 30 percent more than the previous facility."
“You do the math of how many people we would have helped during the last 17 years - so we missed a lot of people," he added.
Rodriguez recently stepped down as chair of the Broward Health System’s Board in March, after being indicted for Sunshine Law violations in December.
BARC's move into a new building was delayed mainly because of eminent domain disputes between Broward County and the City of Fort Lauderdale. The site of the new center, in an industrial area of the city, also created traffic issues with nearby neighborhoods. Bids were finalized in 2016 and ground broke on the new building that year.
BARC adds 16 more detox beds than at the old location, in Sailboat Bend. That brings the total number of people that can detox at once to 50. It also adds meditation rooms, an updated triage center, and room for medically-assisted detox from alcohol, opioids, and other drugs.
Former County Commissioner Lois Wexler started working on the new BARC facility in 2001. She said seeing it come to fruition was worth the years of paperwork and challenges.
"Time makes things seem easier," she said. "Today is a celebration."
After the nearly two-decade long wait, it was an emotional sight for one leader in the community.
Rev. Rosalind Osgood, the Broward School Board member and Associate Minister at New Mount Olive Baptist Church, teared up at the ribbon-cutting. She has always been open about her struggles with substance abuse.
“I know that it was only through ‘the place of grace,’ that’s what I call BARC, that my life was transformed,” Osgood told the crowd.
“I was one of those people who went in and out of BARC because BARC was a way for me to avoid the police, to satisfy my family. But the last time I went to BARC, I really wanted to change.”
Valorie Cotman, a nurse at BARC’s old facility for 31 years, was honored at the opening of the new one. Cotman plans to work at the new location, at 325 SW 8th St., for a year before retiring. In remarks, she remembered back to 1989 when Osgood sought treatment, and expressed how proud she was that Osgood beat the odds.
“Just to hear her testimony and to see her is just so…rewarding for me,” Cotman said.